Stone Chumash, Aish Kodesh Class, August 27, 2009, KiTeiTzei
There are 74 mitzvote found in this parsha, and we will briefly discuss a few of them. Only righteous men could fight in the army. This was not an army of 18 year olds who would do whatever they were told. Men who were not permitted to fight included those who were betrothed but not yet wed, those who built a house and had not lived in it, those who planted a vineyard and had not harvested and those who were afraid. The captive woman cuts her hair and wears an old dress.
The time of battle is the time of prayer. The time of prayer is the time of eating. The biggest question is whether I see myself clearly. Moshe prays to go into the Promised Land 515 times. Then he asks himself whether he wants to fulfill his ambitions or if his teaching career is the most important thing.
There are the people who snatch victory from the jaws of failure and the people who snatch failure from the jaws of success. It is hard to tell which is which. By telling their story they do teshuva and turn failure into success. King Saul became king and then became depressed. Snatching success from the jaws of defeat is exemplified by a heroin addict who counsels another addict and helps with recovery.
The Gemora is about the art of legislating. Ted Kennedy is an example of a great legislator. He was always able to compromise.
What happens when our expectations are disappointed? The marriage does not live up to expectations, so they have a child to repair the marriage. The child rebels and becomes the rebellious son, who is put to death. In real life this could never happen; the Torah is discussing a dynamic in a family.
Recommended movie: An Angry Man directed by Agnieszka Holland. The Jews who were in hiding during the war thought they were the last Jews on earth, and this was the hardest thing.
Triangle: Shin Beis. The word for captivity is the constrictive side, teshuva is the expansive side, and Shabbos is the synthesis (this is the resting state; we leave off doing teshuva on Shabbos). Torah takes an outside battle and makes it an inside battle. We are slaves of the habits which saved us as children.
You are not to leave a corpse on the gallows overnight. There were only four people put to death by Jewish courts in all of history: the Blasphemer, the stick gatherer, and Achan, who looted at Jericho. The stories of the Pegliash of Giva and the captive woman are about the way men look at women and power. When Jews die in Jerusalem, they are buried the same day.
After these discussions of dramatic events, the Torah returns to mundane financial matters, such as returning a lost item. Return is the same work, the spark. The owner is HaShem. The part of HaShem of us has been covered up by the darkness of our mistakes.
Do not pull the shade down when the animal escapes, meaning do not pretend you did not notice the lost animal. The lost and found rock was the highest join t in Jerusalem. Someone who found an item had to declare it there or he became liable. On Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur we are returning lost items to HaShem.
Help the animal up, stop the animal from suffering, and you do this even if you do not like the owner. Chasing away the mother bird teaches us not to commit genocide. Build a fence on the roof, build a fence around a hole. Do not combine wheat and vines when you plant. Do not work two kinds of animals together. We are trying to clarify things through animals and plants. Building fences teaches us to create good boundaries. A bastard is the offspring of a married woman and a man she is not married to in a consensual act. A suicide affects everybody, so there are strong prohibitions against it. The body cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery. But that also affects everyone, so, de facto, the community tries very hard to make it legally not a suicide, turning the cause of death into depression.
Jews in Europe were not allowed to have plumbing; they had to use a sewage ditch. Here in Torah there is a law to make a bathroom, even while camping.
Charging interest is prohibited since it is considered an attempt to own time. Making a loan is a higher level than giving a handout. The recipient is not beholden to the giver; he keeps his dignity and initiative. A man made small loans to women in Bangladesh and was very successful.
Allow people to eat the food they are preparing; allow animals to graze the crops in the fields they are working. A divorced person must have a get. This causes problems among religious children of non-observant parents. A man is not allowed to leave his wife overnight in the first year of marriage. Pawning cooking vessels is prohibited. Pay the worker the same day. Two people claim the same lost item: sell the item and split the money. Here we see clarity of ownership, land title work. A museum buys a Van Gogh from a legitimate art dealer, who got it from the German officials, who stole it from Jews. Who owns it? This is a big part of morality in the world. You must protect someone from a pursuer. It is prohibited to own inaccurate weights even if they are not used; they will always be a temptation.
This is the core of Jewish ethics. The Nazis broke every one. Ethics create trust. Pillage and rape is different from legalized theft and mayhem. The goal of Torah is love (chessed) but you must submit to the laws (gevurah). Morality is a conversation. Context must be taken into consideration.
Aish Kodesh page 118
Amalak says that no place is safe. We are not able to define G*d, but we can feel his presence, and to this end we say Blessed are You. When I call G*d HE, which is the third person, that is the hidden face. Calling G*d YOU is intimate. Aaron was chessed, so the kohanes were chessed. The people who brought the offerings to the Temple did the actual shechting, while the kohanes helped the people change. The purpose of the Temple was tesuva. The Kohanes took the confession when the people brought the korbones. The priests ran with the blood to splash it on the altar.
Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur are group events. Elul, I am my beloved and my beloved is mine, is a time for individual conferences with G*d.
The secrets of the Torah are not in books, they are the things that are transferred between teacher and student. R. Gamliel had a slave who became like a son to him.
When we realize our potential, it is saying thank you to G*d. We are each a mosaic tile.
If our words to G*d are to create a revelation, we must be revealed. We have to be able to see ourselves clearly. Do not focus on who G*d is, but who we are. G*d wants a good partnership.
Every verb for prayer is reflexive. Prayer is like looking into a well (cup of wine) and seeing yourself. I have to recognize my purpose. It makes our eyes shine.
When you put your frustrations into your prayers it is revelation of G*d and you. Shabbos teaches us to be present. [This is about the struggle of the individual with the group.]
Are we praying for G*d to bail us out or to help us focus on a solution? Focus my desires to pull my will out of you. A minyan might be a very good tool for prayer.
Rabbi Henoch Dov teaches in Denver, Colorado. You can contact him through his web page, www.RabbiHenochDov.com or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.